We present a little compendium of our recent homilies about it:
God has visited His people. (Luke 7:16)
God was pleased to reveal His Son. (Galatians 1:15-16)
You may recall that we left a particular question hanging last week. Yes: Almighty God exists. Yes: He has the prerogative of initiating and sustaining a personal relationship with us, by revealing Himself to us. If He exercises this prerogative, then religion ceases to be something that human beings make up. It begins to be a matter of obedience.
For the past month, we have been considering the question: Who do we really trust?
In almost all cases, we do right to insist on some proof of reliability whenever someone tries to claim our attention and credence. But when God speaks, it’s different. The Word of God carries its own proof. God does not mislead; He does not lie. We trust implicitly everything that God says, because God says it. The truth of anything He says dwarfs our minds. If its truth is not clear to us now, it will be eventually. We trust God more than we trust ourselves.
So, in honor of this Year of Faith, let’s clarify this one important point: When we profess our Catholic faith, we do not simply say, ‘God exists.’ In fact, we can deduce that God exists, because it’s the only solidly reasonable explanation for where everything came from.
You are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. (Luke 24:48-49)
Last week we began talking about how we can understand ourselves in such a way as to help us give the world the New Evangelization. We began to meditate on the question, “In order to ‘have’ the Gospel, who do you have to trust?” And the first part of the answer is: We trust the great we, the great us, that is the Catholic Church, united and governed by the Pope.
–Great, Father. We, the Church. But how can I trust the Church as an institution when, according to MSNBC, it has so many deep-seated problems? “Crisis-plagued?”
This is the honest question of an honest person seeking to find the path of righteousness and truth. We—the big we which we are talking about—we are nothing at all if we are not first and foremost an association of honest people humbly seeking the path of uprightness and truth.
Right? So we have to deal with this particular honest question: How do we trust the institutional Church after the sex-abuse crisis? Even if “the sex-abuse crisis” has been 85% manufactured by the media and only 15% real. That 15% still makes this question an honest one. How do I trust the Church after living through this?
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. The Holy Spirit will remind you of all that I told you. (John 14:27,26)
Who would have thought, on the sixth Sunday of Easter last year, that this Sunday we would celebrate the day with a new Italo-Argentine Jesuit Pope?
For that matter: Exactly one year ago, who would have thought that the Supreme Court would vindicate the federal health-care mandate? Or that the Ravens would be Super Bowl champs? Who would have thought that Mariah Carey would sit as a judge on American Idol?
Life can bring some surprises our way. We can wind up confused, even disconcerted. With all this unpredictability, the question arises in our minds: Who, or what, can we really trust in this world?
We live in the age of the New Evangelization. The world groans under the burden of sin. Every soul faces inevitable death. We human beings do not get born with an instruction manual for life in our little hands—and even if we did, we probably wouldn’t be able to understand the garbled English in it anyway.
In other words: Our brothers and sisters here on this earth need to hear from us the meaning of, the purpose of, the right way to live life. Our brothers and sisters need the Gospel of Christ. And we can’t count on them getting it from anyone other than us.
So let’s ask ourselves this question; let’s ask ourselves, so that we can understand this–and thereby prepare ourselves to share the Good News with others: In order to “have” the Gospel; in order to grasp the way, the truth, and the life which Jesus Christ gives, who do we have to trust? Who do we have to trust in order to be Christians?
In the beginning, man fell away from God. Many generations passed, during which the silent sky stretched over human history. Then God called Abraham.
The friendship between the Lord and Abraham was so pure and intimate that succeeding generations had a very difficult time getting a grip on it.
Fundamentally, Abraham lived with his heart lifted up to the Lord, trusting in His gracious promises. Abraham did not fret that he would die before the promises were fulfilled. Instead, his pure heart rejoiced in simple trust. God is good. He will provide.
This faith of Abraham, the faith of Israel, reaches into the absolute epicenter of the human soul. It is as invisible as God Himself.
Over the course of the history of the Chosen People, the holy faith manifested itself in different external trappings. The law written on the inner heart of man was spelled out in stone on Mt. Sinai. Abraham’s religious acts were carried out perpetually in the Temple in Jerusalem. King David ruled the people with the same faith, and he sang it in the Psalms.
Then the Israelites were driven into exile by their enemies. All the external trappings were taken away. The Temple was razed to the ground. The line of kings was broken.
But the pure faith of Abraham endured. It had always been directed to the future anyway. The faith and hope of the Israelite lived on, through the war-torn centuries that followed the exile, when the Jews found themselves back in the Holy Land, but nonetheless oppressed by one pagan empire after another.
The living guardians of the faith of Abraham were the Pharisees. Their teaching and example protected their disciples from the worldliness and cynicism of the pagans. The post-exilic Jewish monarchy could lay no real claim to the inheritance of King David, and the priestly class just went through the motions. In other words, the traditional institutions of the Chosen People had been completely corrupted by outside influences.
But the Pharisees guarded the separateness of the chosen nation. “Pharisee” means ‘separate from the heathen.’ They taught Jews how to keep their homes and towns quiet, hidden enclaves of pure faith.
Except when they didn’t. Except when they took their place right alongside all the other sons of Adam. Except when they, too, fell prey to vanity and greed. Except when their ‘pure’ observances covered over their selfishness and meanness.
Christ reserved his harsh words for the ones who came within millimeters of the truth, but missed it. He expressed nothing but patient compassion for humble sinners who knew perfectly well that they fell far from the mark. But the ones who got close enough to being right that they forgot that God is God and we are not? That’s how you make the Son of God mad.
Abraham rejoiced to look forward to the day of Christ. Abraham believed in the fulfillment to come. The Pharisees guarded the faith of Abraham so ferociously that, when the Messiah came, they tried to lock Him outside the house.
An ancient church in Jerusalem houses the places where Christ died and was buried–and where He rose from the dead.
Upon entering the church, the pilgrim kneels to kiss the stone on which the Lord’s body was wrapped and briefly anointed for burial. This stone is located immediately inside the church door.
After the Holy Father entered the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre today and kissed the anointing stone, he spoke at the tomb of Christ. Among other things, he said:
As Christians, we know that the peace for which this strife-torn land yearns has a name: Jesus Christ. He is our peace, who reconciled us to God in one body through the Cross…
Into his hands, then, let us entrust all our hope for the future, just as in the hour of darkness he entrusted his spirit into the Father’s hands.
In the hour of darkness: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Trust. God is in charge of tomorrow. (And the rest of today, for that matter.)
What does the Lord Jesus mean when he tells us to “take care what you hear” (Mark 4:24)?
First and foremost, He intends for us to hear the Word of God. God has spoken to us in Christ. We must hear Him, receiving Him into our souls with faith and love.
Perhaps the Lord also means that we must be careful how we hear other people. When they speak, what do we hear?